ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (11): 2003-2012.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2018.02003

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Plasticity of the prefrontal cortex in old age and underlying mechanisms

WANG Chen-Xi, CHEN Tian-Yong(), HAN Bu-Xin   

  1. Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2017-11-13 Online:2018-11-15 Published:2018-09-26
  • Contact: CHEN Tian-Yong


Previous studies have shown that structure and function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are particularly vulnerable to aging. On the other hand, recent studies have also indicated that the structural and functional plasticity of PFC is preserved in old age. For older adults, cognitive training attenuates reduction of cortical thickness in PFC, increases white matter integrity, improves intra- and inter-network functional connectivity, and also changes functional activation through modulation of dopamine activity in PFC and subcortical structures. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, preserves neuronal integrity and promotes neurogenesis, which would then lead to increased volumes in prefrontal gray and white matter, and altered functional activation patterns. Multimodal intervention, which combines cognitive training and physical exercise, has demonstrated better ecological validity, enhancing everyday cognition and life quality of older adults. We suggest that future studies should adopt various techniques, in order to better understand the prefrontal neuroplasticity in old age and its related mechanisms; separately analyze the various PFC related cognitive abilities; and lay stress on the more ecological multimodal intervention.

Key words: prefrontal cortex, executive function, older adults, neural plasticity

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